by Abbey Ross

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(A girl looks at her phone with a sense of fear)

If you are a technology user living in 2020, you have undoubtedly seen tremendous amounts of troubling and stressful news stories during the past few months. Television channels are clogged with their usual politics, crime, and celebrity news, but now an entirely new topic has crammed its way into the already overwhelming news cycle. Yes, you guessed it: COVID-19.  As if turning on the news wasn’t stressful enough, we now have more portable—and more intrusive—forms of technology that ding and beep at us as soon as the death toll rises, a gaggle of gun-wielding protesters emerges, or a politician makes a statement on Twitter. 

If you are like most people, including myself, who feel like they’re drowning in a river of events and notifications, you’re probably looking for a way to get some air, to escape the never-ending rapids. How are you supposed to do this, though, when we live in such a quickly evolving world where it seems like every hour brings another devastating wave of events? 

For some people, the solution is to just turn it all off. They take their phones and hide them in another room, silence notifications, and escape into the world of Netflix or a good novel. In all my efforts to do this, however, I’ve felt suddenly and alarmingly disconnected. What if my sister calls or my friends need my advice? What if my boss emails me or a vaccine is found today and I miss it? I have listed some things that I have done when I just need to step back and take a break. They help me feel more grounded and less anxious while allowing me to maintain a healthier level of connectedness.

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(Being in front of a laptop can cause you undue stress)

Listen to Your Brain and Body—feelings of anxiousness can manifest in many different ways.

Be kind to yourself and be open to the sometimes subtle signs that your mind and body are overwhelmed. These can include anything from changes in appetite and sleep patterns to sudden tiredness, loss of motivation, loss of memory, and other mental and physical symptoms. For example, back in March at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I convinced myself I was sick because of tightness and pain in my chest. After a week or so, though, I noticed that I only felt these symptoms while reading or watching the news.

Communicate—tell your loved ones what you’re doing and why.

When you start to feel overwhelmed by being tethered to your phone or computer—whether by news alerts or lengthy debates in a group chat—don’t be afraid to let your loved ones know how you’re feeling. A simple text explaining where your head is at and that you will be stepping away for a little while should suffice. Your friends and family have surely been dealing with similar concerns lately and will likely support your choice to take a break.

Example: Hey guys, I hope you all are having a good day. I am a little overwhelmed with what we’ve been chatting about/the state of the world right now/my notifications, so I’m going to put my phone away for a bit and do something else. I’ll talk to you later.

Set Up an Alternative—find a less intrusive method of communication where someone can reach you if they really need to.

 If you are concerned about being completely disconnected from your phone (a very reasonable concern in this day and age), include in your message that someone can reach you if something urgent comes up. If you’re living at home right now like me, giving your friends, coworkers, or family members your home landline phone number is a great alternative.

Make it a Habit – set aside some no-phone time on a scheduled basis.

 By doing this, your contacts will be aware of what you’re up to every day from 3-5 pm, for example. They will know not to worry if you don’t answer right away, giving you some peace of mind to escape and relax.

 

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(Exercising is a great way to retreat from technology)

Use Your Free Time Wisely – once you have identified feelings of anxiousness and established some time away from the noise, make sure you really appreciate the silence.

Now that you have created some space for yourself to retreat from the endless stream of news and notifications, make sure you allow yourself to fully occupy this space! No sneaking looks at your phone or flipping on the news (even if it’s just for five minutes)! Do something that makes you feel calm and centered; for tips on mindfulness, exercise, yoga, and new activities during quarantine, check out these other BTP articles: 

Quarantine Activity: Learning a New Language

   Stretching it Out: Keeping Connected Through Yoga

   Staying Fit During a Pandemic

   Rediscovering Reading During Quarantine

   Meditating in a Time of Crisis: A “How-To” Guide in Clearing the Mind

 

 

 

By: Abbey Roth

May 25th, 2020 is a day that will be written in the history books: the day America was awoken in a way it has never been before. The unjust killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd within three months acted as the straws that broke the camel’s back in a long history of disproportionate harm to the black community in this country.  Protests in every state ensued shortly after the death of George Floyd, manifesting themselves as  beautiful displays of the power of the rage and hurt that an inherently discriminatory society has birthed inside the black community for nearly 400 years. For the first time in many young peoples’ lives, they are being forced to confront their individual complicity in a deeply white-centric and racist system. It has introduced the dire need for self-reflection and contextualization of everyone’s privilege.

The product of this much needed self-reflection has reared its head in public social arenas; social media has been overwhelmed with black squares, attention-grabbing infographics, and lengthy paragraphs full of statistics and opinions. The Black Lives Matter hashtag has been used over 21.9 million times. The awareness of police brutality, racism, and white privilege is expanding, knocking on the doors of those who have been able to hide away in the comfort and familiarity of their online social circles. While there’s no doubt that opening up the opportunity for discussion is crucial to breaking down barriers and deconstructing our defective system, we must examine the genuinity of the common Instagram story. Can the occasional post truly ever be enough? In order to answer this question for yourself, you must consider the poster’s intention, past behavior, and their concerted efforts beyond the social media sphere. 

Any intention other than to educate, to spread awareness, to convey hurt and anger, to present statistics to support a fully-believed argument, or to amplify Black voices, feels disingenuous. Posting to be included in a viral trend needs to be seen as an insidious act, as it seeks to feign support for a cause that desperately needs genuine involvement and commitment. It does not exist to be paraded on your feed. It exists to bring to light the injustices institutionally built into our nation that have cost real human beings their livelihoods, their lives. The poster who suddenly appears as a vocal proponent of the issue after a history of silence, complicity, or blatant racism also must be regarded as suspicious; is what we are seeing representative of personal growth and education, or is it their underhanded attempt to blend in and erase their historical lack of empathy for people of color? Are our peers hiding behind a facade of social media activism to absolve themselves of guilt? In either of these cases, a desire to be accepted by society as conscious and empathetic of the plights of Black people overshadows their need to actually act to help resolve the issue. Both of these cases are unacceptable forms of speaking out. Beyond the poster’s own personal beliefs, we must be critical of the extent to which they actually support the cause they claim to. Sharing is important, speaking up is important, but action is imperative. To feel strongly enough to post, but to forego any further use of the same technology to enact actual change–to sign petitions, to share and use resources, to call and email local officials–is a flagrant expression of laziness, privilege, and discomfort that acts to undermine any support, fabricated or not. 

As a young mixed American woman of both White and Black heritage, I have felt an immense sense of duty to challenge myself to use my voice to have difficult conversations with my loved ones. To face those individuals who were responsible for my first-hand education of racism and microaggression. To scrutinize my behavior in hindsight; how I personally allowed these microaggressions to permeate while simultaneously using my comparative white privilege to duck away from uncomfortable situations while my Black brothers and sisters could not have had the luxury of avoiding this distress. For me, just a post will never be enough. Another’s post will never be enough.

However, one of the most genuinely touching things that I have personally witnessed to come from this is the massive outpouring of true allyship from around the world. Gatherings of people in every major city across the globe speaking out about injustices of their own is a profoundly important display that lets us know that America is not alone in its systemic racism and mistreatment of Black citizens. Not only are Black individuals in the UK, France, New Zealand, and beyond conveying solidarity with the struggles of many Americans, but they are using action and movement to express a deep empathy and understanding that should disturb us deeply, as well as inspire us to spark change beyond the Facebook wall and Instagram feed.